A little over a year ago I surveyed the reelection of Barack Obama, the mix of incredulity and rage from the fringe right, and I knew that my work in this area was complete. The GOP faced the stark choice of trimming its sails for the demographic headwinds or being reduced to a regional party, but it took the shutdown of 2013 before they realized they were going to have to actively clean house rather than passively waiting for time to do the job.
I set out looking for something new to do at the start of 2013 and I knew it wasn’t going to be domestic. I spent a lot of time studying the social and professional network of Wikistrat, e-International Relations, and other foreign policy related collectives. The response when I approached was a pretty universal: “So, you are a college dropout and a hacker? Really?” I would not have predicted it at the beginning of the year, but the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium proved to be just the right size for my odd mix of skills and interests.
I was pleased with one anchor outlet like TRAC, but I see forces at work in the world, manifesting in social media, that indicate something is about to happen, but it’s hard to say exactly what. I happened to scan my Twitter timeline a bit ago, and one of those imminent somethings popped right out at me:
@kdnuggets hints about SciCast
I took a look at the Twitter account for the effort and I was amazed that something so new had scored a mention from data mining guru @kdnuggets. I got in on the ground floor – follower #70.
What’s inside is as promising as a fledgling effort getting big name attention. Fourteen prediction areas, a clear sign of gamification in the form of a leaderboard, and it’s crowdsourced from the question creation through to the results.
When social media exploded onto the scene about five years ago the competing systems were clawing for market share. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace in decline except for music, Google+ trying to be ubiquitous and ending up intrusive and annoying, and a horde of also-rans that were mowed down by Facebook’s momentum and Twitter’s open format.
Fast forward five years, what social media platform am I using? Twitter, but it’s measured in minutes per day, as I passively observe leaders in various areas that interest me. I can go a month without logging into Facebook, but I have yet to make it a full quarter. LinkedIn is tolerable given the ability to lock up one’s contacts and mute chatterboxes.
Here are some trends I have noted:
One by one, email providers are requiring SMS verification before they’ll provide an account. The scammy, spammy nature of new social media accounts has much to do with this, as providers are seeing hordes of accounts registered and tended just long enough to make social media registrations work.
Someone gifted me a ScienceX profile and here I’m seeing one aspect of the future – people are willing to pay $15/year for high quality content and trolls aren’t willing to pay a $15 per ban tax.
The price of entry for SciCast is intangible but the bar is set very high – if you’re not serious about scientific method and quality control you’ll sink like a stone. They don’t explicitly state it but I’m sure they have sterner measures for anyone who is intentionally disruptive.
Stepping back even further, the very concept of the nation state seems to be in decline, but corporate power is far from assured. None of them run without humans on the inside, and Edward Snowden has made it painfully clear what happens when those people begin to question the nature of their work. And those corporations all have to participate in some fashion in this melange of social networking.
We evolved as a species on predator filled savannah, grouped together and task differentiated to maximize survival. Deprived of a secure place in the ranks of a union or on a stable corporate ladder, Randian theories glorifying hyper-individualism quickly fall away. The hunter-gatherer band has come back into fashion and networked humans are an acid bath for monolithic entities that draw the wrong sort of attention to themselves. SciCast is just the latest of a rainbow of threats to slow moving, internally politicized companies that have to meet shareholder expectations.